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Monday, March 03, 2008

So THAT'S why the Council of Europe thinks intelligent design theory is a threat to human rights!

Recently, I was interviewed by a fellow journalist who wanted me to explain why the Council of Europe thought that intelligent design theory was a threat to human rights. I said quite honestly I hadn't a clue. If they are post-modernists, their views can be fact-free. The relevant question might be "What do you guys smoke these days?"

Finally, this morning, I stumbled on an answer that at least moves the Council of Europe from the realm of toxic smoke to the realm of coherence. They're still wrong, certainly as far as North America is concerned, but at least they are now making sense. Here's a short trail of correspondence that explains it:

Thomas K. Johnson, Academic Dean, Baltic Reformed Seminary: Riga and Vilnius*, writes to explain a problem that has come up:
In Europe we face the problem that some Muslims borrow ID argumentation for their educational literature, then argue:

1. Allah is the Designer of all;

2. therefore all people must submit to Allah;

3. therefore the Sharia must be imposed on all people, regardless of religion or culture;

4. therefore it is properly to persecute (even kill) those who do not submit to the Intelligent Designer and his law, the Sharia.

Like it or not, ID argumentation is being used by some Muslims as part of their explanation of why it is right to wage jihad against secularists, Christians, and Jews.

I wrote back, offering,
Thanks much for info, Thomas! Is that how the Council of Europe got round to declaring ID a threat to human rights?

If so, the C of E's concern is still a crock because the 4-part argument you report ASSUMES the existence of a theocratic state/superstate (which Europe supposedly isn't).

Even if points 1 and 2 are conceded to be true, points 3 and 4 don't follow from them.

That is, if God exists and people ignore him, they will certainly have trouble, but their neighbours need not persecute them in order to bring it about the trouble. It is a natural effect, and shows much more clearly when it is left to be a natural effect.

For example, in The Spiritual Brain, Mario Beauregard and I show that, in most studies done in North America, spiritually minded people have better physical and mental health than others.

No human government causes this effect or prevents it. The effect arises from a true interpretation of the nature of our universe.

If the government started forcing people to go to church, the effect would apparently disappear because many unhappy, unconvinced people would be sitting angrily in churches ...

The effect – which is a powerful argument for God - can only be observed when there is no compulsion in religion.

He wrote back and didn't dispute that, but noted,
There is no danger of a theocracy in Europe any time soon, even though some of our Muslim neighbors openly proclaim their desire to turn the secular European Union into the Islamic Republic of Europe under sharia law. The Muslims simply do not have enough people in Europe to make that a reality right now; their numbers are still below 10% of the population of the entire Continent. But their pronouncements have irked enough people that the Council of Europe declared ID a threat to Human Rights and the future of science.

Much of the world does not simply assume freedom of religion in the sense you (and I) probably accept. Many people assume that if their religion is true, then it is the duty of their government to promote their true religion.

Muslim notions of theocracy are rooted in the notion of Allah being the Creator/Designer of all. Their logic is, he created all, therefore he must rule all, therefore sharia law for all people and all sectors of life. Notions of design and creation normally have pushed Jews and Christians towards democracy, whereas Muslim notions of design and creation normally push them towards theocracy.

Dr. Johnson gave me permission to publish this correspondence, and it certainly provides food for thought. In North America, most people who think that the universe shows evidence of design assume that religious freedom is essential because, with religious freedom, people will discover the evidence for God themselves, as ex-atheist Antony Flew famously did.

Come to think of it, most North Americans do believe in God, and in science, and in religious freedom. Not an accident, I think.

*He is apparently also Vice President for Research and Personnel Development
Martin Bucer Seminary: Bonn, Berlin, Istanbul, Hamburg, Zurich, Innsbruck, Ankara, Zlin, Chemnitz, Pforzheim;
Director, Comenius Institute: Prague
Fellow, International Institute for Christian Studies

Updated march 12 2008:

My friend Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol writes,

[Quoting Thomas K, Johnson:]"Muslim notions of theocracy are rooted in the notion of Allah being the Creator/Designer of all. Their logic is, he created all, therefore he must rule all, therefore sharia law for all people and all sectors of life. Notions of design and creation normally have pushed Jews and Christians towards democracy, whereas Muslim notions of design and creation normally push them towards theocracy."

Well, not necessarily. Actually all Muslims believe in creation (thus a "Designer"), but quite many of them support democracy. The Muslim case for democracy, in a nutshell, is this: God is all-knowing, but since no human being (except the prophets) can claim to speak for Him, there is no divinely ordained authority. We must consult with each other while managing our affairs, because God gave all of us intelligence...

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Service Note

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?, or my book of essays on faith and science topics, Faith@Science: Why science needs faith in the 21st century (Winnipeg: J. Gordon Shillingford, 2001). You can read excerpts as well.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

NEW! Here's my review of Oxford Mathematician John Lennox's God's Undertaker: Has science buried God? - an excellent riposte to the materialist view of the universe.

Intelligent design east: Intelligent design without God

Hollywood weighs in with pro-ID film, to premiere on Darwin’s birthday.

Animations of life inside the cell, indexed, for your convenience.

Anti-God crusade ... no, really! My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

Behe, Mike My review of Mike Behe's Edge of Evolution

Catholic Church A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

Collins, Francis My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God

Columnists weigh in on the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

Darwinism dissent Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin

Encyclopedia of ID topics Evolution in the light of intelligent design - look up intelligent design topics here.

Gilder, George A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

Intelligent design academic publications.

Intelligent design-friendly students should be flunked, according to bio prof Evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Intelligent design controversy My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

Intelligent design controversy timeline An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Intelligent design and culture My review of sci-fi great Rob Sawyer’s novel, The Calculating God , which addresses the concept of intelligent design.

March of the Penguins A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

Origin of life Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.

Peer review My backgrounder about peer review issues.

Polls relevant to the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

Stove, David O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

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